The Good Wife

17 May
<i>The Good Wife</i>

In an early episode of The Good Wife, Alicia (Julianna Margulies) is outraged when she founds out she owes her latest client to her husband Peter’s (Chris Noth), an ex-State’s Attorney serving time in prison for corruption, machinations.

“I was doing you a favor!” he protests.

“By sending me a hooker?” she asks in disbelief, his very recent past with high priced escorts, of which her new client may well have been a part, coloring the conversation.

“A rape victim!” he says defensively, to all appearances honestly shocked that she would have a problem with his lawyer personally referring a stripper/ hooker/ rape victim, whose degree of acquaintance with Peter is never really explained, her way.

It’s a great scene. And the kind of writing that makes The Good Wife, the story of a political wife putting her life back together after being publicly humiliated by her husband’s high-profile indiscretions, not just my favorite freshman show this year, but actually the network ensemble I’ve enjoyed most since The West Wing went off air.

It’s not really a political show though. The three main arcs of the show are Alicia’s work at a prestigious but financially troubled law firm; her continuing struggle against the fallout of her husband’s actions on their personal life; and the skulduggery surrounding Peter’s appeal against his conviction. Unlike a number of other shows, however, there isn’t a single arc that doesn’t grab your interest.

Noth is absolutely pitch perfect as the erring husband. As each episode reveals the ever-increasing depth of Alicia’s humiliation at his hands, you wonder why on earths she would stick by him – to the point of even testifying in his favor. And then you see the two of them together, working as a unit, and the way he so unerringly finds her buttons as he attempts to slowly woo her back… and you still don’t understand it but you begin to think his bitter ex-mistress/ favorite hooker was right – they deserve each other.

Underneath the buttoned up exterior (Margulies plays Alicia as a steely-spined, near-expressionless store of banked emotions in a way that is absolutely riveting to watch), is a woman who evidently chose not to match her husband for the fifteen years she spent at home raising their children. Now, next-to-friendless, broke, with her husband in prison and some very powerful people gunning for his head, she chooses something quite different and it’s wonderfully entertaining to watch people who thought they knew her based on her role as her husband’s wife get the shock of their lives. People such as Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), the new State’s Attorney and Peter’s arch nemesis who made the mistake of thinking her an easy target.

Meanwhile, Alicia’s co-workers include Will (Josh Charles), her friend from law school who gave her a trial job as a junior associate at the firm where he is one of the partners. This pleases exactly no one – Diane (Christine Baranski), the other partner isn’t too fond of Alicia and sees no reason why she should be promoted at the expense of the other associate they hired on a trial basis, Cary (Matt Czuchry), especially when he does such a good job bringing in the money. Cary thinks there might be a bit of favoritism going on too.

The one exception, and the surprise packet of the series, is Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), the firm’s in-house investigator. A bit of a mystery woman, she’s tough, she’s smart, she’s sexy and she’s a really good friend to Alicia in ways that are uniquely her own.

In fact, for a show centered on a woman who makes the mind-boggling choice to stand by the man who humiliated her to an insane degree and continues to make sacrifices on his behalf, The Good Wife isn’t short of strong female characters and the complex ways in which they behave. In the same episode featuring the hooker, the court trial ends with Alicia, Kalinda, the rape victim and her mother standing outside the courtroom while the accused rapist’s new wife protests his innocence.

Back home in their new, smaller apartment, Alicia’s kids are dealing with their father’s fall from grace in ways subtly demonstrating the fact that no matter how he may feel about it, he’s forever screwed them up to a degree that none of them can process yet. And they’re being brought up, part-time, by Peter’s mother, who chooses denial over the cold-eyed acceptance that Alicia prefers as a life strategy.

It is a fascinating cast of characters and one of those few shows that injects immediate addiction. My only crib is that the season finale is next week.


Posted by on May 17, 2010 in Entertainment, Review, Television, Video


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7 responses to “The Good Wife

  1. pitu

    May 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Everyone in my burb watches it! It’s set here after all. But I haven’t bitten yet. I guess I was burned by that horrid ‘Starter Wife’ (Debra Messing) and I somehow feared this may be similar. The last time I tried out your reco though, (True Blood) I was muy pleased (Anna Paquin SQUEE!) so I might finally give this one a go.

  2. The Gud Wife

    May 17, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Such a sweet fable of the erring husband and the (philosophically different) ever-forgiving, immune-to-humiliation wife. I’ll be sure to TiVo the season finale.

    Strangely, I read your post after reading this, by Critchley (from your alma mater?) and…and…just burst out laughing.

    He writes: “What is a philosopher, then? The answer is clear: a laughing stock, an absent-minded buffoon, the butt of countless jokes from Aristophanes’ “The Clouds” to Mel Brooks’s “History of the World, part one.” Whenever the philosopher is compelled to talk about the things at his feet, he gives not only the Thracian girl but the rest of the crowd a belly laugh. The philosopher’s clumsiness in worldly affairs makes him appear stupid or, “gives the impression of plain silliness.” We are left with a rather Monty Pythonesque definition of the philosopher: the one who is silly.

    But as always with Plato, things are not necessarily as they first appear, and Socrates is the greatest of ironists…”

    Pupil and teacher, plato and socrates… they’re such a treat together, ain’t they? Philosophy *is* for fools (and, let’s not forget, luverrs!).

    • The Gud Wife

      May 18, 2010 at 3:25 pm

      p.s: And hey, to me, any talk of philosophy seems somewhat incomplete without towing in its (step)sister-in-sanctimony, mythology.

      If you really (smoke a joint and) think about it, doesn’t your writeup recall some stupid Raja of yore who probably made a sport out of throwing his favorite bawd under a bus, so to speak? I for one can clearly envision a bejeweled (not to be confused with perpetually stoned, the *other* truism of the time) hedonist who twirls mustache evilly, claps hands gleefully, and generally enjoys himself (with the rest of the harem), while everyone else pretty much “holds court” with his whore.

      Well well. We knew that’s just how royalty rolled way back when. And we’re wonderstruck, obviously, to see those exact themes trickle into our TV drama, today.

      In other words, that “injection of immediate addiction” you talk about… what’s not to love??

  3. le embrouille blogueur

    May 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Brilliant synopsis…. I rarely get time to watch TV before it is time for the late night shows …. but have heard good reviews about this one … your post makes me want to watch it … just to see your words in action.

  4. Sonia

    May 19, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I’m also a fan of The Good Wife. It’s a great summary of the series!Looking forward to the season finale but don’t want it to end yet at the same time…….

  5. Amrita

    May 19, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Pitu – omg, this is about as far away from that mess as you can possibly get! And talking about Chicago, there is this great exchange in the courtroom when Josh Charles is up against a federal prosecutor and he pulls a stunt and –
    Prosecutor: What the hell was that?
    Will: Do you have a map?
    Prosecutor: A map?!
    Will: Yeah to show you where you live. That’s called a Chicago defense and you better get used to it.
    Hee! 😀 Compare that to Debra Messing pulling faces and you can see the difference.

    TGW – Well, Alicia is an accidental philosopher then, because she didn’t set out to be one. Her husband did her that favor. But yes, this is one addiction I don’t want to give up! 😛

    leb – you should see it! And tell me how you found it! 😀 You can catch it on the net from the beginning.

    Sonia – same here! Although I’m already looking forward to Season Two.

  6. Shalini

    May 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Watched “The Good Wife” for the first time last week while indulging in some aimless surfing. The proceedings looked so interesting that I decided to stay. You’re absolutely right about the strong, well-etched female characters. I’m particularly intrigued by Archie Panjabi’s character – she fascinates and disturbs me at the same time. And what a beauty! I’m hoping the story arc between her and the sleazy police detective doesn’t end too badly – for her that is, couldn’t care less about the guy.:-)

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